Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Impaled!

I find it sad that changes in design have largely done away with mascots on the bonnets of cars as objects of art, humour, and personal interest. Some of you will remember that in the days when cars had a screw cap on top of the radiator, the caps often carried a manufacturer’s signature mascot, or a personalised one designed by the owner. These objects are now very much a collectors’ item, and if you are interested you will find two good collections on line at Tony’s Top 50 Metal Mascots and at Northstar Gallery Classic Car Mascots.

I myself have a very personal interest in mascots of that sort, as I once became impaled on one! It is a story of unimaginable folly, and I was lucky to come out of it with no more damage than two permanent scars.

In the summer of 1940, when I was 12, I went to stay with my friend Julia, and her dog 'Hitler', who lived on a pig farm in the country – (oh! the stink!). On this particular day there was a whole crowd of small children, of which Julia and I were the eldest, playing some distance from the farmhouse, and an aunt was dispatched to bring us back in the car for lunch. Crazily, we all clambered up onto the running boards, bonnet and even roof of the car. Julia and I having the longest legs took the top position, facing forwards, with said legs presumably obscuring the driver’s view to some extent.


The car had begun to roll slowly down the lane when the dog decided he wanted a ride too, and made a leap for the bonnet. Aunt braked violently, children shot forwards onto the ground, but poor Judith’s travel was interrupted by contact with the car mascot, a penetrative design which passed through a portion of her gluteus maximus and out again, narrowly missing the sciatic nerve. I managed to pull myself off while sensation was still numbed, and when we had all got safely and more circumspectly back to the farm, the local GP was sent for and I was stitched up, adequately though not elegantly. That has not mattered though, as my buttocks have never been much to write home about and I never wanted to flaunt them.

The nearest I have been able to find to my recollection of this damaging weapon, is the 1933 Buick Winged 8 pictured below, although I think it was more likely a British car. It is not the sharpest of mascots to be seen in the collections, but it was quite sharp enough. In these days of seat harnesses and many other safety regulations, you might think that the mounting of such things on car bonnets would be illegal, but subject to certain restrictions it can still be done. If you want to know the English law in the matter, have a look at the website of Louis Lejeune, mascot manufacturer.


9 comments:

Richard said...

Would it have been an old Hillman Minx?

Caution to anyone attempting to put anything but water and antifreeze through the cap above the radiator!

Judith said...

I couldn't say yes or no, Richard. I found a stylised bird mascot picture,from the right period which might have been sharp enough, but it didn't jog my memory.

Are you politely telling me I've got my facts wrong, and that petrol was not put in via the radiator cap? I must correct my blog (and my store of relevant knowledge) if so! Trust me to get it wrong.

Richard said...

Judith, yes. An honest mistake if one isn't mechanically minded. The radiator cap would be on the radiator, which is full of water. It is the water that is cooled by the flow of air over the myriad small pipes through which it is flowing that cools the engine. Nowadays the radiator cap is under the bonnet.

Judith said...

Thanks! I'd much rather be corrected than get it wrong. I try to check when in doubt, but ...errm ... I wasn't in doubt this time.

Carol said...

Judith
Taken a recommendation from Knowley and have been looking at your blog. Wish my Mum could take a leaf out of your profile, bless her. Anyway, your car story reminded me of a car that used to be parked near me as a kid. No Mascot, but he'd covered it in fake grass and had little people models on the bonnet, playing golf, and just generally going about everyday things. That car always grabbed my attention when I walked past it and I got told off fot taking too long to buy a loaf for my Mum!!!

herhimnbryn said...

OUCH!
You have conjured up a great picture of children playing in the country though!

Nea said...

I remember them, but way back when.....not in recent years, not unless I go to a classical car show.....

Gert said...

I'm disturbed at that dog called hitler.

I have visions of a small child wandering down country lanes calling "hitler! hitler! where are you! come to mummy! hitler!"

Jessie said...

Owie!!!

I was about the same age when I had a face-to-face meeting, and not in a good way!, with a board set up as scaffolding across two step-ladders. A similarly memorable event, doubtless less bloody than yours. I did break a tooth, though, so still have the illustration for my story. ;-)